July 16, 2014

The Slow Fall of Joe Hynes

As many criminal defense lawyers who have practiced in Kings County can tell you, Charles Hynes's office had a reputation for sometimes playing dirty pool and engaging in occasional sharp practice. Not surprisingly, Brooklyn is responsible for more than its fair share of wrongful convictions. On the plus side, Hynes's successor, Ken Thompson, is making a yeoman's effort to investigate possible miscarriages of justice. Better still, attorneys for the wrongly convicted are making headway on their suits alleging that Hynes's office was deliberately indifferent to police and prosecutorial misconduct, including the withholding of information they are required to disclose, such as Brady and Rosario material.

Recently, attorneys for Cy Greene won a ruling from Magistrate Judge Cheryl Pollak, who sits in the Eastern District of New York, that they can depose Hynes for two hours on matters related to the training and discipline of his prosecutors. Recently, attorneys for Jabbar Collins were permitted to depose Hynes along a similar line. Initially, Judge Pollak had blocked the deposition, directing the defendants to produce other prosecutors for questioning. These were not fruitful. The Court granted a renewed request, saying that further surrogate witnesses would only yield more second-hand information. Such depositions are highly unusual, to say the least, and it is not unrealistic to expect that Hynes may not be done giving such testimony.

As cases like these heat up and move towards conclusion, it appears increasingly evident that winning convictions may have become more important than doing justice in that office. Indeed, Hynes's prior refusal to acknowledge wrongdoing in the Collins case was cited by the Court in the civil case as one of the basis for allowing the civil claims to go forward, as it evinced a lack of recognition or concern that his senior subordinates were engaged in misconduct.

The progress made on the current suits, which will lay the groundwork for those to follow, is promising. It is not unrealistic to hope for (expect?) a determination at some point that Hynes's office was, in fact, deliberately indifferent to police and prosecutorial misconduct, and either encouraged or ignored it in pursuit of convictions. Such an acknowledgment could begin the process of righting the wrongs that were done. All in all, a good day for justice in Brooklyn.

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